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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

Utah Gubernatorial Candidates Debate Role Of State Government In Coronavirus Response

Headshots of each candidate cropped into one image
University of Utah website and Spencer Cox campaign
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, and University of Utah Law Professor Chris Peterson, a Democrat, are running for the first open seat for Utah governor since 2004.

The two major candidates for Utah governor debated the role of state versus local governments in the coronavirus pandemic response Friday during a debate hosted by the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who’s not running for re-election, has left several decisions up to local governments, like whether to issue a mask mandate, and allowing them to request changes in their level of pandemic restrictions. But he has made some statewide orders, like requiring masks in schools and government buildings.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the Republican nominee, said during the debate that he also favors local control in the pandemic response, and it’s why he opposes a statewide mask mandate.

“Local government is closest to the people,” Cox said. “It's important that the people listen to their local leaders because there's so much trust there. There's so much understanding of those unique circumstances.”

Democratic nominee Chris Peterson, who is a law professor at the University of Utah, said he agreed with that approach for issues not relating to the pandemic. But he said the public health emergency requires a different approach, including a statewide mask order.

“We have to try to do everything that we can to take care of one another,” Peterson said. “That's what loving your neighbors is about. That's what coming together in a time of crisis requires. The first obligation of leadership is to take every action you can to keep the public safe. That's what I'll do.”

The general election is Nov. 3. All registered voters should receive mail-in ballots and each county is required to have at least one in-person polling location.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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